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Project kickstarts SA’s use of TV white spaces
28 August 2019, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT

The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to support a project to help improve Internet access to rural areas of South Africa.

The grant, which focuses on facilitating export opportunities for US companies in support of sustainable development projects globally, will fund several TV White Space (TVWS) deployments with the goal of establishing business and deployment models that can be replicated across the country.

As the first country in Africa to publish a TVWS regulatory framework, South Africa has long seen the potential for the technology to bridge the nation’s digital divide. Encompassing an unreached population of more than 20 million people in rural areas and difficult-to-reach terrain, South Africa is an ideal location for TVWS, which uses unused broadcast spectrum to deliver long-range wireless connectivity. The project is intended to demonstrate that TVWS is a feasible business solution for economically and affordably connecting rural South Africa.

“Since deploying the first TVWS system in Africa, Adaptrum has sought ways to use TVWS to bring much needed connectivity across Africa,” said Haiyun Tang, CEO of Adaptrum, which is leading the project. “Now that TVWS is allowed in South Africa, we are extremely pleased to have the support of USTDA for this project to ensure our technology can be deployed affordably and sustainably by our local South African partners.”

The Adaptrum-led project team is a consortium of US and South African partners including Microsoft, International Data Corporation and Project Isizwe. The consortium will collaborate with the grant recipient, the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA), to deploy three TVWS network builds and develop a business plan to help ISPs and their investors understand and take advantage of commercial opportunities with TVWS.

“The support from USTDA validates what we’ve seen in South Africa and many other locations – TVWS is a valuable and important technology for enabling affordable and reliable connectivity,” said Kevin Connolly, director of Airband International at Microsoft. “Microsoft works with hardware partners like Adaptrum and investment partners like USTDA to accelerate bringing connectivity to millions of people around the globe who lack Internet access, and we’re excited to bring this work to fruition in South Africa today.”

Once a successful business model is established, additional TVWS projects across South Africa and in other areas of southern and eastern Africa can be developed – bringing much needed connectivity investment to the continent by tackling issues such as the cost of infrastructure needed to reach the rural poor.


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